How NOT To Use New Media

If you’re looking for a good example of how to use a new media platform in the worst possible way, American Federation of Musicians (AFM) International President Thomas F. Lee provides the best example I’ve come across to date with a series of videos the AFM released on YouTube. Everything in this video from the complete absence of production qualities, patronizing tone of his voice, ill-fitting suit, and circa 1962 copy (that’s only cool in Mad Men) is a gruesome train wreck of a product. But wait, there’s more…

Although there’s nothing wrong with reading from cue cards, they need to be at the same level as the lens. With his eye line a good foot below the camera, Lee’s read is only outdone by his dead-pan facial expressions.

Normally, the video would be embedded below but this is so bad, one has to imagine the AFM won’t leave this up very long and I don’t want a dead video link in my blog if I can help it. Instead, I’ll just post a direct link. Ultimately, Lee’s videos serve as latest splash of gasoline on the growing bonfire of reasons why orchestra musicians should get the hell out of dodge and opt for a new collective representation solution (the other offerings are every bit as cringe inducing as the first, which leads me to believe the first wasn’t just a shaky first attempt). For deeper insight into the actual message Lee is attempting to deliver, check out Ray Ricker’s 6/8/2010 blog post.

If you want some frame of reference into just how bad Lee’s videos are, compare them with a recent end-of-season video message from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) president, Deborah Rutter. In many ways, the CSO’s video is similar to the AFM videos in that they are designed to deliver a straightforward message about who they are, what’s going on, and why you should care.

But that’s where the similarities end. The CSO’s video features Rutter sitting in her office and looking directly into the camera. Yes, she’s reading her lines as well but they are going about it the right way and you really have to be looking for it to notice. Beyond that, the wealth of simple but effective production values (music, lighting, cut aways!) along with warm and friendly copy writing makes the video a solid example of how to effectively produce a new media video.

At this point, I’d love to show you the CSO video but this is where we hit the only snag in an otherwise solid product. There’s no link to embed the video, which seems a bit odd since it also includes a direct fundraising request. Nonetheless, you can check it out at

In the meantime, feel free to post a comment with your observations about either video.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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5 thoughts on “How NOT To Use New Media”

  1. The hope out there among many of us is that, having done so much to anger and ignore ICSOM, OCSM and the RMA, the June, 2010 Convention will finally topple Lee from power. His opponent Ray Hair, President of the Dallas/Ft. Worth Local and well-regarded by the musicians including the Dallas Symphony, will bring a much-need breath of fresh air to the AFM.

  2. A lot of people get caught up in production values. It is more important to have something to say and to be genuine. The NY Local 802 Musicians Union election featured the “slick” incumbents against underfunded, but ardent challengers. They had no money for a video, but that didn’t stop them. I was able to “produce” this piece for them for almost no money, no equipment and on a terrible set. From a “quality” standpoint, their video was awful, but it worked.

    • Thanks for the insight Lisa. Overall, content and production values aren’t mutually exclusive items and both have minimum thresholds to cross before reaching necessary levels of impact. Sacrificing one for the other increases the risk of a zero sum scenario.

      Moreover, where the message is coming from makes a difference. If a small or no-budget group decides to make a video, viewers will likely have lower expectations than something coming from an established, well known entity with larger funding resources. In the AFM’s case, and the CSO, they certainly fall into the latter category and the comparative differences in the final product are immediately noticeable.

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